In 2009, His Holiness the Dalai Lama called on the world to educate the hearts – and not just the minds – of children. In 2013, UX for Good took up his challenge in partnership with The Dalai Lama Center for Peace + Education in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Designers spent two days observing practice and absorbing theory on child development and contemplative practice – in elementary schools, in university and at Heart-Mind 2013, a conference for practitioners in the field.
The positive impact of mindfulness programs on children’s health, behavior and academic performance was both readily apparent and substantiated by rigorous scientific study. Teachers who had integrated mindfulness into lesson plans and classroom management were overwhelmingly supportive of expanding the programs.
So why wasn’t mindfulness part of learning for every child?
Designers discovered there were two primary obstacles to broad adoption of mindfulness programs in schools. First, mindfulness training was competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of “magic bullet” solutions to challenges in public education — making it very unlikely that school districts and administrators would champion the cause. Second, mindfulness training was a relatively expensive proposition. Program licenses and related materials were pricey, limiting the number of school districts that could afford them.
Champions would have to come – not from the administrative ranks – by from teachers themselves. Also, program costs would have to be dramatically reduced if teachers were to persuade their colleagues to give mindfulness a try.
The designers’ answer was the “Heart-Shaped Toolbox,” a collection of digital tools that allow and encourage teachers to share mindfulness best practices — readings, activities, materials, research and support — with fellow teachers for free. This greatly increases the odds that believers – classroom teachers with first-hand experience of the positive impact of mindfulness programs – can convert the uninitiated. The Toolbox was supplemented by designers’ ideas for engaging school’ communities and extending mindfulness training to parents.
In 2014, The Dalai Lama Center began work on Heart-Mind Online — a rebranded version of the Toolbox.